The Markup: Tax filing websites sent personal consumer data to Meta

The Markup: Tax filing websites sent personal consumer data to Meta

An investigation by the Markup reportedly found that tax prep software H&R Block, TaxSlayer, and TaxAct sent sensitive financial information to Meta via its widespread code called a pixel, with which developers can track user activity on their website.

According to a report published on 22nd November, Meta pixel trackers were found in the software which sent information such as users’ names, email addresses, income information, and even refund amounts to Meta, violating the sites’ policies.

The Markup, an American non-profit organization, further found that TaxAct sent similar financial information to Google as well through its analytics tool, but the data did not include users’ names.

Meta utilizes tiny pixels which businesses and publishers embed on their sites and sends back a message to Facebook when users visit that site. It allows them to target ads to users based on their previously visited websites.

The report stated that this information can be used by Facebook for its advertising algorithms, even if the user of the tax service does not have a Facebook account. This shows how social media platform’s tools can be used to trace people across the web without their knowledge. 

It seems that sharing information may have been a mistake, according to statements from the tax filing sites. According to a spokesperson for Ramsey Solutions, which uses a version of TaxSlayer, the firm was not aware and neither notified about personal tax information being collected from the pixel.

The Markup found this data trail via the Pixel Hunt project with Mozilla Rally, where participants installed a browser extension that provided the organization with a copy of data that pixel shared with Meta.

A Meta spokesperson stated that advertisers should not send such information through its Business Tools as it is against the tech giant's policies, adding that Meta educates advertisers on how to properly set up these tools to prevent such incidents.

A Google spokesperson said that the firm’s policy prohibits customers of Google Analytics to send back data that can be used for identifying users.

Source credit:

About the author

Meghna Singh

An English Literature graduate, Meghna Singh ventured into the profession of content development to incorporate her knack for writing articles across verticals including technology, healthcare, business, and alike for News Origins and Newsorigins. She has also completed her MBA in Tourism and worked as a content creator in the field of product development.